Mercy’s Violent Love

Mercy screams its violent love
Justice..
And mercy
Justice..
And mercy
The death of us created for
Justice..
And mercy
Justice..
And mercy
This is where they kiss
–Flyleaf

The first few times I listened to this song I really struggled with understanding the marriage of justice and mercy. I understood mercy…and adored (still do) the imagery of “mercy screams its violent love”, but what is so sad to me is I had never been taught restorative justice. I was reading a book by Richard Rohr entitled Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi at the age of 27 before I realized there was a justice outside of retributive justice. This is deplorable! Our entire society functions on the misunderstood concept of “an eye for an eye”…which, by the way, does not at all mean what we were raised to think it means. It does not mean “if you take my eye, I’m going to take yours!” but rather “if you take my eye, you owe me an eye”…which leans closer to restorative justice than retributive justice.

When one considers restorative justice–the justice that works to reconcile the wronged and the wrong-doer–mercy naturally fits into the equation. Where is this? Why have I not been taught this? What is it about us that drives us to assume violence is the best answer? That punitive treatment is going to fix all of our problems?

I invite you to recall 9/11…or another national tragedy…the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting for example. Take a moment to remember how you felt when you first heard or saw the news…do you recall a sense of loss? Of mourning? Even if those events had nothing to do with you…don’t you still feel somehow connected to them? To the victims? Some may argue that this is due to our egocentric attempts at making the world about us, but I would argue differently. We feel connected because we are connected. We are all humanity. I recall one of the most popular TobyMac songs “Made to Love”:

I was made to love
And be loved by you
–TobyMac

I think of hundreds of people screaming in excitement at the intro to this song at a Christian music festival…I think of those words leaving the mouths of those who also tell someone who loves another of the same gender that they are going to hell…or that the woman who is walking out of Planned Parenthood is a murderer. If we were made to love, where is this love? What is this love?

1 John 4:8
Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love.

God is love. If God is love, were we not created for love? To be in union with God is to be in union with Love, is it not? Perhaps this is what causes the connection between us and the strangers we see mourning on TV…perhaps this is what it feels like to be connected through Love…to be connected at the core of humanity…creation…God. Perhaps we really made for love, to love, by Love. I know we were not made to judge, and we certainly were not made to convict…so what are we doing? An eye for an eye…

We preach love one another, yet hate our neighbors…I’ll re-word “neighbor”…we hate our enemies. Jesus came right out and spoke it very clearly using the word agapate…granted I’m not a student of Greek, but I’ll take the assumption that agapate is a derivative of agape (verb vs noun I’m thinking). Agape is perfect, self-sacrificing love…this love is not possible without Love. We cannot possibly be capable of true Agape love unless it is from Love Himself, through us. Agape my enemies. Mercy. Restorative Justice. Peace. Love.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20
 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

Mercy screams its violent love, justice and mercy…this is where they kiss.

Peace.

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Searching for Myself

I sit here tonight in the full realization that I truly do not know who I am. I have managed to separate myself from myself in order to survive, but because of this my identity never truly developed. I know in my head what I’m supposed to believe. I know in my head that Christ dwells within me, that it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives within me. But there is such a gap in between my head and my heart. I don’t communicate well with my subconscious, because again, that’s how I survived. By never allowing myself to look at my wounds, to treat them, I’ve been able to ignore them. Except now they’ve become infected and I have no choice but to take the bandages off and treat them one by one. Digging in the inflamed tissue to debride the wound is intensely painful…sometimes unbearable. There have been nights when I am crying so hard it is almost like dry-heaving, the pain inside is consuming and my body is trembling. My husband will hold me and pray with me and I know that despite the raw emotion and consuming fire of pain, God is right there with me. Holding me as well. Healing my wounds.

This is the softening of my soul. It’s a beautiful, yet excruciating process. But with every purge leaves more room for His love to fill the void. I am beginning to see as He sees. I am beginning to understand what it means to be a part of humanity. What it means to be His. What it means to be made new in Christ. I am understanding what it means to be a part of the kingdom of Heaven. I am beginning to love myself. For years I have always hated who I was–I was always somewhere in between failure and over-zealousness. I was never good enough, or was too much. I have moved from hating myself to tolerating myself, which is where I have been for several years. I cannot love myself until I can fully understand who I am. Which is Christ in me. Do you understand that? 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Did you catch that? So that WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. That is who I am. I’m getting it now. God is love. I was made for love. Together, Christ in me, I am made to love with His love, with Agape love. A love that extends beyond any human capability, a love that I will never fully comprehend–but through Christ I am somehow capable of true Agape love. I highly doubt I will ever realize the true magnificence of Agape…and I am sure my humanness will always hold me back from allowing Him to Agape through me completely. But the capability is there, and that’s pretty damned amazing. I find myself yearning for His love, longing to completely understand who I am in Him. I know this is a journey and I know I’ve only just begun, but damn am I excited to see what We will do. I know I am created for greater things. I know God has a purpose for me and I know this journey I am traversing is exactly what is necessary to shape me so that I can be the person I need to be to complete my purpose. Do you realize this? I have a purpose. It was not so long ago I was questioning the meaning and purpose of my life…and humanity in general. I can now see humanity and it’s beauty and know we were all created in His image. We are all the same. We are all connected.

“If your only goal is to love, there is no such thing as failure”
–Richard Rohr

I have a long path ahead of me, and I know there will be terrain that will cause me to stumble once again. I know there will be areas where I don’t think I’ll ever crawl out of, and I know I will come face to face with my own mortality once again and most likely beg for death. But now I know I am not alone. I have more tools in my utility belt and better shoes. I know it’s ok to be where I am…which is somewhere in limbo between who I am and who I am. My image of self and of God and religion has been completely shattered, but what is being rebuilt is something, o’ so much more beautiful.

“My old self had melted away like cotton candy in the rain, but I had no sense at all of having actively fashioned a new one”
–Tim Farrington

One day I know I will wake up to realize I am no longer who I used to be. One day I will realize that I love myself. One day I will know my identity. One day I will be able to look at my brothers and sisters with a deep love that does not come from me, but from within me, from Christ. I will be able to see creation as an extension of the beauty of the Creator Himself. And it will be good. I will be able to sit in the darkness and know peace.

“The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep”
–Robert Frost

Peace.